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Created to show staff what I attended and learned at the PLA conference in March of 2006 in Boston, MA

Created to show staff what I attended and learned at the PLA conference in March of 2006 in Boston, MA

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  • We each received an LSTA Career Enrichment grant from the State Library of North Carolina. LSTA grants are federal money that is funneled through state libraries to local libraries. More information can be found at the State Library’s web site.
  • I’d like to give you a brief overview of the conference and then talk about the concept of customer driven libraries.
  • Table talks are smaller group sessions where participants discuss relevant topics. Conference programs are more formal presentations with larger audiences & less discussion.
  • Can choose a track that focuses on a particular issue, service or population. To expand our knowledge base, we tended to attend different programs and rarely saw one another during the day.
  • This ties in to our recent strategic planning process. Had to look carefully at what we do and how to make the best use of our scarce resources, while remaining focused on what our customers want and need. Some of these changes are happening quickly and staff have little time to adapt. But these changes are happening in libraries all over the world.
  • I see 2 main factors: (there are others) Technology has changed almost everything that libraries do. We live in a consumer culture where people have many choices in spending their dollars. As a result, customer expectations have changed. Libraries now have competition.
  • In order to continue to be relevant and successful, we need to focus on providing what we are best at offering – what makes us unique?
  • Service must be intelligent, responsive & personal. We are all customers and thus are experts on customer service. Get a grip – most organizations are run for the convenience of staff and not their customers.
  • Arguments abound in the field, but the bottom line: Catawba County citizens pay taxes that provide library services AND they have a choice to go somewhere else if those services don’t measure up to their expectations. Is everyone who comes in or uses the web page a customer? Is everyone who comes in a patron?
  • Frontline staff need to feel empowered to work with the customer who is standing in front of them and who has a problem. Nothing is ever just black and white. There is a lot of “gray area.”
  • Look at the library from a customer viewpoint. How easy is it for a customer to: Find their way around in the building – signage. Find what they are looking for. Enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, etc. of the library as a “place.” (Karen’s example here)
  • Ditch the rules: take out all negatives and everything that “reinforces a stereotypical impression of the library and/or looks stupid to the average person.” We do this by working as team to look at our rules with fresh eyes (from the viewpoint of the customer). Do we really need our rules, and if so, how do we state them in a more positive way? Share exceptions to rules and then look again.
  • Put a positive spin on things and see the glass as half full and not half empty.


  • 1. Public Library Association (PLA) Conference Information Session for Staff April 28, 2006
  • 2. Introduction
    • Boston, MA
    • March 22-25, 2006
    • Attending:
    • Judy Foster
    • Robin Howard
    • Lynne Reed
  • 3. Agenda for today
    • Overview of the conference
    • Customer driven libraries
  • 4. Conference Overview
    • Table Talks
    • Conference Programs
  • 5. Examples of Topics
    • Technology
    • Services for Children, Teens, Adults $ Seniors
    • Facilities
    • Programming
    • Collaboration
    • New Products
    • Literacy
    • And many, many more…
  • 6. Program Tracks
    • Lynne: Leadership & Technology
    • Judy: Reference & Facilities
    • Robin: Youth and Teens
  • 7. Lynne’s Favorite Session The Customer-Centered Library
    • Presented by Karen Hyman
    • South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative
    • 12 steps for reinventing libraries
    • Libraries facing fast changes
    • How do we keep up with these changes?
  • 8. Why are libraries changing?
    • Technology
    • Consumer culture
  • 9. Who is our competition?
    • Bookstores (cafes)
    • Online shopping services
    • Community Agencies
    • Video stores & movies on demand
    • Wireless network hot spots
    • Google & easy access to information
    • Our own web sites!
  • 10. THE BIG FEAR
    • “ Libraries and what they can offer will be increasingly irrelevant and invisible to the majority of people.”
    • Karen Hyman
  • 11. What makes us different?
    • Our customer service.
    • Our knowledge.
    • Our ability to adapt.
    • We are free!
  • 12. What should we be looking at?
    • Being current & relevant
    • Being in tune with customer needs
    • Providing excellent service
    • Focusing on what we do best within the resources that are allotted to us
    • Providing a library space that promotes a satisfying experience
  • 13. Karen Hyman says:
    • “Service can be our competitive edge.”
    • “First, do no harm.”
    • “Get a grip.”
  • 14. Vocabulary Lesson
    • A patron is one who supports, protects, or champions someone or something, such as an institution, event, or cause; a sponsor or benefactor such as a patron of the arts.
    • A customer is one who buys goods or services.
  • 15. The 12 Step Program
    • Step 1: CARE
    • “The key to quality customer
    • service is creative
    • problem solving.”
  • 16. Step 2 – Think like a customer.
    • “Put yourself in their place – really .”
    • “Make it your business to see results for your customer.”
    • “Make customer service a way of life and a part of every decision .”
    • Walk through and look at the library from the eyes of a customer.
  • 17. Step 3: See the problem(s).
    • Most problems occur for 2 main reasons:
    • “Somebody wants something and they’re not getting it.”
    • “Somebody's getting something they don’t’ want.”
  • 18. Step 4: Change your approach…not the customer.
    • “Don’t make value judgments.”
    • “Don’t think, just listen.”
    • Then work with the customer to find a satisfactory solution to their problem.
    • “Ditch the rules.”
    • “Solve the problems when and where they happen.”
  • 19. Change your approach:
    • “Provide customers with the widest possible opportunity to do what you want.” Or what they want!
      • Put a skateboard rack at the door.
      • Put out a cart or baskets for books not taken in the children’s department.
      • Express checkout.
      • Food or drink in the library
  • 20. When it comes to customer service:
    • “ Err on the side of customer service that is positive, welcoming, and empowering for the consumer.”
  • 21. Step 5: Abandon victimhood
    • Does our library have a culture of victimhood?
    • “We never get any more money.”
    • “We never get any respect.”
    • “Why are we (or am I) always the last one to know anything?”
    • “Nobody understands all the great things we do.”
    • “And we always have to clean up after these slobs…”
  • 22. Victimhood:
    • “Obscures facts”
    • “Is powerless”
    • “Is personal”
    • “Saps your energy”
    • “Takes you nowhere”
  • 23. Step 6: Organize your library to support quality service.
    • “Set up an easy-to-use continuous communication system among staff and between customers and staff and use it.”
      • “Morning briefings”
      • “Staff blog”
      • “Whiteboard in staff area”
      • “Email to customers”
      • “Newsletters”
      • “Flexible, helpful, friendly signage”
  • 24. Other ways to support quality service:
    • “Create human and technical systems that support consistent great service.”
    • “Make it fun. Reward for uncovering the problem of the week.”
    • “Create a culture that supports caring, risk taking, resourcefulness, curiosity, accountability, results.”
    • “Set specific targets for quality service and measure your results.’
  • 25. Step 7: Walk through everything.
    • “In the building, on the web, on the phone, in technical and lending services.”
    • “To share the customer’s experience.”
    • “To see what works and what doesn’t and fix what doesn’t.”
  • 26. In your library:
    • “What makes it easy to find things?”
    • “What makes it difficult to find things?”
    • “What alerts (or obscures) possibilities?”
    • “What makes navigation a breeze – or a chore?”
  • 27. Things that make it easier:
    • “Very open, spacious, neat, well decorated, tasteful.”
    • “Shelves well organized and documented in the catalog.”
    • “Overhead signs in adult stacks.”
    • “Natural light, large windows.”
    • “Large signs on soffits.”
  • 28. Things that make it more difficult:
    • “Lobby is dark and dull.”
    • “No food/drinks signs in the lobby.”
    • “Nothing ‘hits you’ as you come in, no teaser/focal point.”
    • “Nothing encourages people to ask for help.”
    • “Looks like a ‘model home’ not a real home.”
  • 29. More difficult things:
    • “Teen area lacks ‘coolness.’”
    • “Overload of little signs, hard to read until you’re on top of them.”
    • “Can’t tell if it is ok to take a display book.”
    • “Too much stuff on the desks.”
    • “Variety of collections in dark, out-of-the-way locations.”
  • 30. A Self Service Library
    • “Easy and intuitive to use.”
    • “Helpful, friendly signage.”
    • “Marketing/merchandizing techniques.”
    • “Direct interaction with online library systems for library card, status, renewals, materials requests, paying fines, program registration, booking computers and space.”
  • 31. More self service ideas:
    • “Self check-out, pick up of reserves.”
    • “Drive-in window.”
    • “24/7/365 access.”
  • 32. Step 8: Get the book into the customers’ hands.
    • “Reduce time in processing.”
    • “Have a grab-and-go new book collection.”
    • “To meet requests, buy when its fast and affordable and lend with minimal processing.”
    • “Float the collection in multi-branch systems.”
  • 33.
    • “ Consider the Netflix model.”
    • “ Merchandise the collection…because you are SELLING it.” Merchandising:
      • Transforms the library experience.
      • Makes it easier for the public to see and discover materials (impulse buying).
  • 34. Modern vs. 1950’s style library
    • “A ‘marketplace’ of books on display in the library’s Main Street.”
    • “New DVD collection and display furniture.”
    • “an Internet card.”
    • “A ‘family room’ in the children’s area.”
    • “A ‘living room’ with a great view.”
  • 35. More…
    • “A new teen area adjacent to adult services.”
    • “Custom slat wall, end caps and gondolas full of books.”
    • “New staffing patterns including a greeter.”
  • 36. Step 9: Transform the library experience
    • “A warm, inviting 21 st century environment”
      • “Has a greeter”
      • “Is a comfortable space to sit, read and spend time”
      • “Allows eating and drinking”
      • “Provides computers and effortless wireless connection for customer supplied equipment”
  • 37. More library transformations
    • “Allows cell phone use”
    • “Avoids a plethora of rules; solves problems when they happen”
    • “Has comfortable seating, extended hours, hi tech, encourages browsing, book clubs, author events, supports personal use of technology, is a community center and fosters collegiality.”
  • 38. Step 10: Overcome overdues
    • Reexamine the rules of overdues. Suggestions:
      • “ Pay when you reach the $$$$ threshold.”
      • “ Fine free Fridays”
      • “ No overdues, but we love donations.”
      • “ Courtesy email reminder with a hot link to renewal screen”
      • “ Multiple renewals based on use and requests.”
      • “ A new motto – ‘Late is great!”
  • 39. Step 11: Take the library to the people.
    • “Have an online application process and mail the card with library info.”
    • “Provide live, interactive information service and a full range of materials and services on the web.”
    • “Put satellite libraries in the community.”
    • “Experiment with mobile communication to the cell phone/PDA.”
  • 40. Step 12: Make something happen
    • Focus on results for your customers and then fine-tune your processes.
  • 41. 5 things you can start today!
    • “Look at the rules; get ride of most of them and restate the rest in a positive way.”
    • “Look at what people want (and will want) and find ways to deliver it. Ask them and listen when they answer.”
    • “Walk through your building and every service and fix what doesn’t work for the customer.
  • 42. More…
    • “Incorporate customer service into every decisions and problem-solving process.”
    • “Treat every customer like a person.”
  • 43. Summary
    • Attending this session:
      • Helped me to think (again) and refocus on why I work at the library.
      • Showed me that many other libraries across the country are facing the same problems and lightening-swift changes that we are facing.
      • Energized me to want to provide the best library facilities and services in our region.
  • 44. I’d like to leave you with these questions:
    • What can I do to make the library a better place and more a comfortable experience for our customers?
    • How can I promote the value of public library services in Catawba County?